Dartmouth Academy students hold their very own EU Referendum following visit from MP Dr Sarah Wollas

A special event was held at Dartmouth Academy on the 17th June 2016. Local MP (Member of Parliament) Sarah Wollaston was invited to the academy by English teacher Miss Blumer and History teacher Miss Print to speak to the students about her thought and opinions on the death of MP Jo Cox, being involved in politics as well as the EU Referendum; Head Teacher Tina Graham welcomed Dr Wollaston to the Academy.

The thoughts and ideas that Sarah Wollaston shared with us all were interesting and some of them were even inspiring. Sarah Wollaston has a great influence on the people of the South Hams just like you and me; she has represented us since 2010 in politics and before she got involved with politics she was a doctor. How amazing is that?

Students of Dartmouth Academy saw this event as a great opportunity to ask many questions about the topics that Sarah Wollaston shared with us some of these included:

  • What is it like being a member of parliament?

  • What made you change your mind about the EU referendum?

  • And how can we get involved in politics?

Dr Wollaston’s answers were very thoughtful as well as helpful; she told students, “there are many ways that you can be involved with politics. The main one is getting your voice heard.”

This answer was very helpful for people like me who want to be involved with politics when they’re older, and encouraged me to write this article.

However there was one question that Sarah Wollaston asked us, and that was “are you holding a school debate on the EU referendum?”

Our answer was “Yes!”, and I was particularly strongly involved in the campaign.

A school debate on the EU referendum - whether Great Britain should leave or remain in the EU - was held on the morning of the 19th of June led by 6 year nine students; due to the fact that a school referendum was being held on the 23rd of June. The students from year nine were supported by two young outside speakers: Simon Rake (Remain) and Justin Haque (Leave) helped the young students of Dartmouth Academy deliver their speeches and answer the questions asked by members of the floor as students from years 7-9 were watching the debate. Both visitors did an outstanding job using their general knowledge and research to help answer some thoughtful questions from students. Mr Rake and Mr Haque were thanked gratefully for spending their free time to help students of our generation understand the importance of the EU referendum and know why one is taking place.

The morning of the 23rd of June had arrived and everyone was very excited about the EU referendum and especially the school one which was hosted by year 10 volunteers and the Miss Blumer and Miss Print. The volunteers organising the Academy referendum were bound to be busy as 281 students from Dartmouth Academy had registered to vote however only 128 of those students actually voted. Although this means we had 72% turnout, like the national referendum, that is just 46% of how many people were actually eligible to register which was less representative.

Those students who did not vote had different reasons: because they didn’t care, they forgot about registering in time or they didn’t know who to vote for, therefore significant figures in the Academy’s EU referendum were lost. I asked some Year 8 students what they thought about the EU referendum and how it may possibly affect us in the future and this is what they said:

Chloe said “I don’t care because I think they have already decided whether to stay or leave or not.” Amy said that she voted to stay because she thinks that Great Britain will be stronger in the EU whereas Anya told me that she does not care about the EU referendum because she doesn’t care whether we decide to leave or stay in the EU..

Another student, Jade, stated “I don’t really care – I don’t think it will affect me that much apart from the fact that I will miss out on magic stars as they are only sold throughout the EU.”

All of these people mentioned that they don’t really care and I think this is worrying as of us, our generation are going to be the most affected by the EU referendum and this is what some people don’t realise. The main reason that some of the people that were eligible to vote didn’t vote was due to the fact that they didn’t care on what happened furthermore this is one of the reasons that a significant amount of votes had dropped.

At the end of the day the results showed that 72 (56.3%) of the students that were eligible to vote voted to remain and 56 of the student voted to leave therefore the Dartmouth Academy referendum had shown that the people of our generation want to remain in the EU and it goes to show that every vote counts and that those all-important significant numbers mean something. If everyone’s vote counted, including those who spoilt their ballot papers or who forgot to register in time, the Remain vote would have been 117/208 – astonishingly, exactly the same percentage. Leave voters (43.7%) obviously feel strongly but in Dartmouth Academy the majority of students want to Remain part of the EU.

So thank you to all of those who did vote and thank you Dr Wollaston for your advice. Whatever our views, we need to make our voices heard.

Owen Elwell, Year 9